Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plastic, Trash, Animals Dying, and Humans Changing

The TEDx: Great American Garbage Patch was held yesterday in Los Angeles, CA. I wish I could have gone, but am glad that some of the videos are available for everyone (yay, less carbon emissions for travel, too). This is a great one, it hammers in the point about how animals can't tell the difference between plastic and food.

Instead of the usual discarded shell from another crustacean, this little crab is using some human trash as it's protective covering.
We can smile and think "yay, some trash is useful!" or "yay, at least this is glass and metal and will eventually break down unlike plastic," but human trash is everywhere and that is not something to be happy about. An image below shows all the human trash that killed this albatross --and it's not all plastic. Bottlecaps and bits from metal lighters also filled the guts of this unfortunate creature.
Here is another. And here is a great teaching tool in case you are a teacher who wants to get kids involved and learning about this plight.
Not just ocean creatures die from over-ingestion of plastic (strangulation is another common method of death due to plastic). Here is a cow from India, who browses the street for food, filling its several stomachs with plastic until it starves to death.
As surfer Malloy says, "Plastic is made to last forever, but made to use only once." What a horrific irony. As 14 yr old J.D. Russo from Carmel Highschool says, "We have to raise care instead of raising awareness" because there are a large amount of people who now know about the Pacific Plastic Patch, and still have done nothing to change their consumption habits.

What can you do? Go to Plastic Pollution Coalition and sign a pledge to not use single-use plastics. And then, of course, actually follow through with that pledge. Not using plastic is a big deal. Household-wide compliance makes the pledge easier, and consumption habits have to be changed. With the abundance of plastic offered to us at every turn, it takes mindfulness with each purchase to check in... "Does this have plastic that is going straight in the bin? Do I really need it? Is there an alternative that I can buy?". The good news is it can be done! I know several people who have significantly reduced their plastic footprint (yay Pope family!) and I follow (via RSS feeds) several more who are almost completely plastic free. You should follow them too, they're so inspiring: 1. Fake Plastic Fish and 2. the Rubbish Free Guide which started as a blog by a couple who decided to be trash-free for a year. They now maintain this site to help others easily find plastic alternatives.

I really love this in-depth How To on collecting garbage without plastic trash bags. I also love the simple steps you can take in restaurants (we bring our own containers...I thought I would be embarrassed but I've found it to be very easy and empowering, actually).

I have collected many of these links over several months. I hope you are able to benefit from them, and would love to hear if you put anything you learn from them to use in your everyday life. While it's not a fix-all, hearing about little (but meaningful) changes in the lives of others really encourages me to keep working toward a more sustainable future.

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